This interview was conducted June 30, 1997 and included in the Koffin online magazine #17 (no longer online)

The Interview

THE KOFFIN: "I've had a copy of the new record for a few weeks, so I guess that's probably as good a starting place as any. I think it's less immediate than, say, the last couple of albums have been. The hooks and the song writing are still there, it just doesn't hit you over the head the first time you hear it."

RAY ALDER: "You've got to kind of get used to it."

TK: "Right, right. So how did the idea come about to do this as one big song?"

RA: "Well actually, after Joe and Frank had left the band, we just kind of sat around wondering what we're going to do next. And since, we had really gained some mediocre success from airplay in our past records -- MTV basically doesn't even exist anymore -- we thought just to write a song for us, as a band. The first thing that Jim thought is, why don't we try a song; one album-long song. And we'd be somewhat anti-radio. Let's write a record and we don't care if it gets on the radio or MTV or not. It would be for true progressive rock fans and for ourselves."

TK: "Well good for you, was it a reaction? I know there had been some criticism..."

RA: "Definitely a reaction. There's been a little criticism involved in our careers. We felt we had wrote some pretty good songs and some pretty good records, but again some mediocre airplay. So we definitely had a bit of frustration."

TK: And I don't blame you. I remember when 'Parallels' came out. I thought, 'These guys are going to be huge. They're going to be seeling out arenas in a few months'."

RA: Something happened. I don't know. It was going really well for a while. It was the best tour we ever did and all of a sudden everything got pulled out from underneath us. That was one big point in our career. We just said 'Screw it,' we kind of broke up after that. That was the biggest frustration because we thought we'd had a quality record and we were getting lots of airtime on the radio and even from MTV. Boom. All of the sudden it was over."

TK: "Any theories as to why it didn't happen?"

RA: "Well, I have theories, but I'm not going to point any fingers. It's still a real sore subject for all of us."

TK: "Understandably, but you're still making really good music. So how did the writing go? I guess Jim was actually doing the writing in New Hampshire and I guess sending tapes out to you in California. How did that work? It seems like a crazy way to write a record."

RA: "We've done it a few times and we did it with 'Inside Out' and we did it with 'Symmetry'. Jim writes the music, and then he sends it out to Mark and myself. Mark gets a drum beat and I get a tape and write a vocal melody, and then I send it back to Jim. And Jim writes the lyrics to the melody and we work everything out over the phone and through the mail and eventually we have enough music written that we can actually get together. This record, we took about a year to do all this -- a really long time, longer than we had expected. We finally got together for less than week and played it live in rehearsal before we went into the studio. The whole thing was written through the mail."

TK: "Wouldn't it be easier to have everybody all in one place?"

RA: "No, it would have been a lot harder, and also more expensive. That's just where Jim lives, in New Hampshire, and he's got family there. It works this way. It may take a little longer, but it's a better product because we all do our own work at home. Mark does his in the studio, and I have a recording setup at home that I use. It was basically all of our own minds working separately, and then once we got together then we got to put all of our ideas together. I think it works well."

TK: "What about the on production side? How did you guys decide to use Terry Brown?"

RA: "He was the one who had done the 'Parallels' record. Once we started writing the new record, Jim and I started talking about who we should get to produce it, and we had all of these new names. Then we said 'why take a chance for something that's so important for us'. This record really is a turning point for us. We didn't wanna use somebody we didn't know, and didn't want to take a chance. We loved working with Terry on 'Parallels', so we decided to go with him."

TK: "You guys seem to place a lot of weight on production. Do you agree?"

RA: "I think production's a really big deal, because I will listen to bands just because of the production factor, even if the band is not that good. If the production is incredible, then I'm a fan of the band instantly. For example, when I first heard the Dave Mathews record, I wasn't really into the music, but the production just fuckin' blew me away. It was just incredible. And eventually I fell in love with the band. Even with old Sade music, I'll listen to that because the production is unbelievable and it sounds great in the car. I think it's really important to all of us to have that."

TK: "What about the decision to cut the record up into the 12 sections for CD playing?"

RA: "I think sometimes now it was a bit of a mistake to break it into the 12 parts, because it actually is one song. In order to make it easier for the listeners, we had the 12 sections [college radio djs appreciate it, too...-K] just so you can go back and forth. Now I think that's a mistake because everybody thinks it's a 12 part record, which it's not, it's just one song. Before we were going to have it just be one long song and you wouldn't be able to skip through or advance or rewind it to any other parts. To me, it seemed like a pain in the ass because I had a demo of the disc on a tape in my car and in order to get to another part you had to fast forward forever. I was almost getting into accidents! I was one of the ones who really suggested that we put some edit points in there so you could go back and forth."

TK: "What about your recent personnel changes? Obviously you lost Frank and Joe, why is it that Joe left?"

RA: "We had done the American tour and the European tour and after we got back from Europe. . .Well, he has family and he's married. To him, I guess, the life on the road and being away from his family wasn't really the life for him anymore. A very commendable decision, I think. So he decided to just stay home. After that we were going to do the American tour and Frank kind of gave us a call and he said, 'I don't think I want to continue doing this'."

TK: "That must have been hard to take, to have both those changes. I mean Joe, especially, a founding member."

RA: "Yeah, definitely Joe, he was comic relief. We are really, really going to miss them both, but that's the way things go. But in the end, I think it's pretty good for us all, because now the band is just Jim, Mark and myself . Decisions are made that much quicker. We're pretty much all on the same wavelength."

TK: "And it gave you the opportunity to work with fabulous guest musicians."

RA: "Oh, yeah. Joey Vera, he's great. He's just an incredible bass player."

TK: "How did that come about?"

RA: "We've been friends forever, just known him for years."

TK: "Since back in the Armored Saint days?"

RA: "Yeah, we've just known him for years and we actually did some shows with him in L.A. He is just doing some projects and things right now and so he was our first decision. And Kevin Moore, he's recording. . ."

TK: "Yeah, he's got a band of his own."

RA: "Chroma Key. Yeah, it's basically just him, but he had Mark play drums on it. And Joey actually played some bass on it. He was doing the mastering at Mark's studio (our drummer Mark owns a studio in North Hollywood) and he was just the obvious choice for keyboards, so we just asked him to do it."

TK: "Was there thought given to adding a second guitarist, rather than a keyboard?"

RA: "Our first decision was, 'Who are we going to get to play guitar?' And once we started writing the record, we didn't worry about that. We decided, 'Jim will play all the guitar and Joey will do all the bass and Jim will play the keyboards.' Then, we figured we'd just find somebody to do the keyboards in the studio once it came down to it. Yeah, our first decision was to get a guitar player, and then we just kind of forgot all about that."

TK: "Now, for a while, there were some rumors going around that Andre Corbin (ex-guitarist from Helstar) was going to join the band. Is that true?"

RA: "Yeah, Andre was going to be our decision. Andre knew that as well. We wanted him to play guitar, but once it all ended up like this we decided to wait on him for awhile."

TK: "So who's going to be in the touring band?"

RA: "Joey's going to be with us, and Ed Roth, who plays keyboards with all kinds of bands -- he's kind of a studio cat -- really good keyboardist. He's been on a bunch of Chris Impelliterri's records, and he just got back from Korea with Steelheart, if you can believe that. That has nothing to do with us (laughs), but it's pretty funny."

TK: "So how do you look back on the first couple of records after you joined the band? What do you think of 'No Exit'?"

RA: "I think it's a great record. To this day, it's the heaviest thing we've ever done. Obviously, I was trying to prove something by singing on that record to be as high as John Arch was or higher. And finally, I think I realized that just because you can sing high doesn't mean you're a good singer. I still, I love all the records we've done, but 'Inside Out' was probably sketchier."

TK: "Oh, really, why so?"

RA: "I don't know, it's just not one of my favorites."

TK: "Do you have a favorite?"

RA: "Yeah, the new one actually. I think it's my favorite record. And of course, 'Awaken the Guardian'."

TK: "How did you end up choosing 'Saints in Hell' for your contribution on the Judas Priest tribute album?"

RA: "Well, the other bands, they obviously wanted to do the newer material, and obviously that wasn't the real, true HEAVY metal. I was a really big fan of Judas Priest when I was a kid and 'Saints in Hell' was just a really, really cool song and we all agreed on it. Bill and I worked that out together. That was a lot of fun."

TK: "So you guys are off to Europe, next week. Is this a headlining tour?"

RA: "First headlining tour in Europe. We're really interested to see what happens. Most of the venues we're playing are 1,000 to 1,600-seaters, which is kind of scary, but hopefully we can fill them up."

TK: "Who's going to be supporting you?"

RA: "Omen and a German band called Scanner."

TK: "What are you going to play? Are you going to play the whole new album?"

RA: "We're going to play the whole record, all the way through from the beginning. Then we're going to play a couple of songs from the last three records, so it should be interesting. It'll be about an hour and 40 minutes."

TK: "What about U.S. tour plans?"

RA: "We have a U.S. tour lined up, hopefully starting July 18, headlining as well, in America. That'll be for eight weeks. Hopefully, the record's doing well."

TK: "Well, you've got such a core audience. . ."

RA: "Yeah, but we want to break out of that. But only time will tell. Hopefully, people will enjoy the record."

~Interview by Kit Ekman~

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